Talking on the radio about Palestine

I was asked to talk about our trip to Palestine on a friends show which is called Annour la Llum. This talk show is run by Carles Peña and every week a guest speaker comes to talk about relevant issues or stories about the Arabic world. Here is the link to listen to the show we did on 6 February. It’s in catalan, I’m pretty nervous! Some pictures below.

http://www.ivoox.com/programa-annour-6-febrer-2013-audios-mp3_rf_1765260_1.html

On the radio

On the radio

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On the radio

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On the radio

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Ramallah

Ramallah, the last stop for us in Palestine. We shared a mini bus with the locals to get to Ramallah from Jericho. It took about 40 minutes. I’m sure there was an easier way to get there, but we took a lot of back roads, but passed some great views on the way. Once we arrived to centre, it was super busy, just like a normal city. We asked the guys working in the bank did they know of anywhere cheap to stay so they pointed us in the right direction. We ended up staying in a place called Al-Wehdeh hotel. It was absolutely freezing but fine.

Views on the way to Ramallah

Views on the way to Ramallah

Our place

Our place

That evening we walked to Yasser Arafat’s compound, the mukataa. It’s here where the tomb of Arafat is. There was plenty of security there, but very nice. It was Arafat’s wish to be buried in Jerusalem, but the Israeli’s didn’t want that. Maybe in the future his body will be moved there.

Arafat compound

Arafat compound

Arafat compound

Arafat compound

After checking out the compound we headed back to the centre. We walked around just having a look at everything. Some streets there are Christian, other Muslim. We ended up taking to a man for ages at his shop. He explained the whole story of what went on in Palestine. He had spent a few years in California but wanted to return home. We ended up going to his friends place to eat, he came along with us.

Yassar Arafat square

Yasser Arafat square

Top of the sculpture

Top of the sculpture

Centre square

Centre square

Having the kebab

Having the kebab

It was a freezing night there in Ramallah with no heat in the room so the man working there gave us a heater, thank god. The next morning we checked out the market. Everything else was pretty much closed. We wanted to buy some fruit but they didn’t let us pay for some reason! Super nice.

Saturday morning market

Saturday morning market

Edgar with the coffee man

Edgar with the coffee man

We hung out there just watching all the craziness. Because nothing was open for the rest of the day and with minimal services of the buses we decided to make a move back to Jerusalem. We shared a mini bus with the locals and went to the checkpoint Qalandia. It was super busy with traffic there. The soldiers came on and checked out our tiny bus but all was fine. We then had to change buses to go to Jerusalem.

Qualandia checkpoint

Qualandia checkpoint

Graffiti

Graffiti

And that was it, the end of the Palestinian journey in Ramallah. A normal big city like any other place except for a lot of history.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pz7PGgLClnI

Hebron

While in Bethlehem, we decided to go and visit Hebron, a city only 30 minutes away. It was pretty easy to get there by just sharing a ‘servees’ (like a little mini bus) with some local people. Once in Hebron we didn’t have a plan. We just wanted to have a look around to see what it was like, what was going on. We made our way to the market which was really busy. Every second person was saying ‘welcome to Hebron’ to us. One man was super keen to talk with us. He began explaining how the Jewish settlers had destroyed his stall on the market. Next thing, we were in his house drinking tea with his wife and 3 kids. The house was pretty rough. It was one room with some mattresses to sit on. He told us many stories ..how the Israeli soldiers had killed his last wife, how another soldier gave his youngest son a sweet that was poisoned with chlorine acid and how he had to go to a hospital in Jordan to prevent him from going blind, how the window in his house was now blocked up by the Jewish settlers.This was quite clear. His window view was basically now a wall. Lots of crazy sad stories. He had a picture of Saddam Hussein above the door. We had just seen pictures of Hussein in the cafe where we had the most disgusting coffee, if you would call it a coffee. So I asked him what’s the story with all the photos of Saddam. He went on to explain that Saddam was really good to the people of Palestine, he helped Palestine a lot with schools and hospitals.  Once we were finished our tea and feeling like it was time to move on, his wife began to show us purses that she had made. We had no interest in buying anything, but we bought one and left.

We went to this man's house

We went to this man’s house

His window that is now blocked up

His window that is now blocked up

This is Palestine

Exactly what it says

We continued on down the market, everyone saying hello to us. One boy Ghassan began talking with us, we didn’t realise that we would spend the rest of the day with him! He explained everything about Hebron to us, brought us into other houses to see what it was like, brought us to the best falafel place to eat, brought us to the mosque. Really friendly person that just wanted us to know how it is to live in Hebron.

Hebron is divided into different zones, H1 and H2. H1 being the Palestinian markets and H2 being under Israeli control. Hebron is full of Jewish settlements. One of the Jewish settlements which has 400 settlers has 2000 soldiers to protect them. Insane! Within the zone are 150 checkpoints and 150 cameras. We saw how the Jewish settlers throw rubbish, bricks and rubbish onto the roof of the Palestinian market, some of the stalls have to be closed because of the acid they throw on to it.

The market

The market

Rubbish thrown by the Jewish settlers

Rubbish thrown by the Jewish settlers

Rubbish on top of the market

Rubbish on top of the market

Tank

Tank outside the synagogue

We went on to see Abraham’s mosque, which is now separated into a Muslim part and a Jewish synagogue. Ghassan told us that in 1994 an American Jew came into the mosque and shot dead 29 Palestinians. Crazy. Again we had to pass through metal detectors to get through. While there, the Israeli soldiers wouldn’t let one man through. He was a volunteer working in Hebron and had been to the mosque lots of times, but because he was wearing his jacket with the volunteering company name on it, they wouldn’t let him through. We visited the Muslim part first. I had to put on a gown to cover my hair and body. There wasn’t many people in there. We then went to the Jewish part. Again more detectors. A soldier asked us where we were from and what religion we were. As long as we were not Arabic it’s ok he said!

Not letting the volunteer in

Not letting the volunteer in

Soldiers protecting the Jewish side

Soldiers protecting the Jewish side

Hanging outside the synagogue

Hanging outside the synagogue

We spent the rest of the day with Ghassan, visiting different parts of the city, explaining to us   different stories about  families there, showing us areas where he could not walk, bringing us to see his friend who makes sand art. An interesting city, a little bit sad to see what’s actually happening there to the Palestinian people. Worth a visit.

Tracy in Israel, Edgar in Palestine

Tracy in Israel, Edgar in Palestine

Blockades

Blockades

Forgot to mention Hebron is where the kaffiyeh is made and is also famous for it’s crystal!

Jericho

After getting through passport control coming from Jordan we hopped on a bus to Jericho. Once we arrived at the bus station it was a bit chaotic, people wanting you to get a taxi with them. Not knowing where we were going to stay in Jericho we got a taxi to the centre. After talking with the taxi man he suggested the cheapest place, called Sami Youth hostel. So that’s where we ended up going. It’s run by Sami, who seems to be known by everyone in Jericho. A friendly man and very helpful!

Streets of Jericho

Streets of Jericho

Palestinian Camel

Palestinian Camel

The next day we didn’t really have a plan. Jericho isn’t so big so we saw pretty much all there is to see by the afternoon. This included: The sycamore  tree (not sure why this is so famous), maybe because it’s really old, Tel es-sultan (ancient Jericho), Ain es-sultan (elisha) spring, we walked up the Mount of Temptation (in super hot conditions) and visited the temptation monastery. The temptation place is where Jesus spent 40 day and nights hanging out (not sure why either). We really should read about these religious sites in the future, but I don’t think it would make me more impressed.The monastery is pretty impressive built into the side of the mountain. It was worth the climb up. There wasn’t many people around, a few Russians.

Jericho-The oldest city in the world

Jericho-The oldest city in the world

The walk to the Mount of Temptation

The walk to the Mount of Temptation

The moastery

The monastery

After realising we could of got a cable car to the top of the mountain (the only one in Palestine), we got it on the way back down. It brought us directly into a tourist shop, bought some dead sea stuff there and we continued to keep on walking in the heat.

Free spin down the mountain in Palestine's only cable car!

Free spin down the mountain in Palestine’s only cable car!

We walked to Hishams Palace, but didn’t bother going in. You could see everything from the outside. Walking there you could see really fancy building with protective wall and security at the gates..these were Jewish settlements. There was quite a lot, shocking.

Hishams Palace

Hishams Palace

After spending the day walking we headed back to the centre. We met a young boy who walked with us to the centre. Friendly as ever. The fashion trend in Jericho seems to be Facebook runners. We saw them in a couple of shops there-funny!

Facebook runners

Facebook runners- Jericho style!

After seeing the sights we decided to get our bag from the hostel and make a move to Ramallah!

Jericho- Sami’s Youth Hostel. Very basic room. Does the job. He has a facebook page where you can see pictures of it.

Bethlehem

Yes. Palestine. Few people were wondering why the hell would we want to go there for Christmas, well, why not! We were a little nervous about it but excited at the same time.

After getting through passport control and collecting our bag we made our way to the transit point where the bus would take us to Jerusalem. We were a bit shocked when we got on the bus at first. It was pretty full, mainly with Israeli soldiers, carrying huge guns. It was a silent journey on the bus to Jerusalem.

Israeli soldiers

Israeli soldiers

Once we arrived in Egged bus station in Jerusalem we had to pass through metal detectors. At first it seemed weird but eventually it became normal. That and seeing soldiers everywhere. Once we had a quick breakfast in Jerusalem we headed for Bethlehem. After all we had planned to be in Bethlehem for Christmas Day.

We made our way to the Arabic bus station near Damascus gate where we hopped on a bus to Bethlehem. There was already such a difference. Being on a lively bus with Arabic music, such a difference from a bus full of Israeli soldiers. Once we arrived to Bethlehem we walked the long way to find our hostel. But, luckily on the way we got to see Banksy’s art grafitti on the wall.

Banksy

Banksy

Once we found out hostel we had to wait a while to check in. The hostel was very central, only around the corner from the main square. Once we relaxed we started to explore Bethlehem. There was a big crowd in the main square, called Manger square. Bethlehem is not so big, so by the end of the day we had seen most of the sites. It was very Christmassy in the centre, a huge xmas tree, crib, lots of lights and of course the church of nativity.

Manger square

Manger square

Not a typical Christmas Day lunch : Palestinian Tajin, but it did the job.

Palestinian Tajin

Palestinian Tajin

In the evening we went into the church of nativity to see the birthplace of Jesus. We had to queue for a little. There was many tourists, a lot from Africa.

The spot where Jesus was born

The spot where Jesus was born

Everyone was quite friendly in Bethlehem. Kids were always shouting hello, what’s your name. We had 3 little boys walk with us for a good while.

The lads

The lads

A falafel sandwich for 4 shekel to finish the day!

The next day we went to Hebron and returned in the evening to Bethlehem. This time we walked the entire wall, all the way to the checkpoint to enter into Jerusalem. It was really busy there with people arriving back from working in Jerusalem, buying fruit and vegetables and catching a taxi or bus to their home. There was zero tourists around so we took our time looking at the grafitti on the wall, taking a look at Banksy’s work along the way. There happened to be a live concert on our way back. We were too early for it though and couldn’t wait in the freezing cold for it. Here’s some pictures of the graffiti on the wall.

The wall

The wall

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Catalan flag in there

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Getting ready for the concert

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Banksy

Stayed in the Bethlehem Youth Hostel – friendly guys working there, a bit cold but a good location with super views.

To see the full album, click on the link below

https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/106642992406238602288/albums/5832223977791784049

 

Avoiding the Israeli stamp

This explains how we avoided getting the stamp on our passports-arriving into Israel and also coming from Jordan into Palestine.

Once we arrived in Tel Aviv airport we got nervous as we knew we had to go through passport control. We didn’t want to have the Israeli stamp on our passport as it doesn’t allow you to travel lots of countries. Once we were at the desk I told the woman that we didn’t want the stamp. There was no big problem just a lot of  questions. Where are ye coming from? Why did we come here? Where are we going? Why don’t we want the stamp on the passport? Do we know somebody in Israel or Jordan? We had to fill out a different form, but once that was done, we were in with a clean passport!

It was a bit more tricky crossing from Jordan into Palestine via King Hussein bridge. Was it our first time in Israel? No. We just hadn’t got the stamp in the first place. The man at passport control wasn’t so nice this time. Why don’t you want the stamp? Because we want to travel to other countries. What countries? Iran? No. Only Iran and Lebanon are the countries you can’t travel to. So we said maybe we’ll travel to Lebanon. What’s your fathers name? What’s your grandfathers name? Are we going to visit Ramallah? Bethlehem? Eventually after the questions he let us through without a stamp on our passports. Not a pleasurable experience.

Form to stamp

Form to stamp